By Veronica Dudo

Nine time Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige, known as the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” has released her tenth studio album My Life II…The Journey Continues (Act 1). The Bronx, New York native has eight multi-platinum albums and four American Music Awards. Blige recently performed songs from her new album during a two night engagement at Caesars Atlantic City. During the first sold out show, fans sang along with the artist and cheered for her to dance on stage.

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During a backstage one-on-one interview, the singer/songwriter talked about the new album and her role in the upcoming movie musical “Rock of Ages” with Russell Brand, Tom Cruise and Julianne Hough, as well as her life-changing transformation.

Your new album My Life II…The Journey Continues (Act 1) was released. How proud were you that you made your tenth album?

I was super excited. The fact that I’m able to do this and have the fan base that I have that consistently supports me is just a blessing, and I’m happy–super happy.

Your song “Living Proof” from your new album was featured in the movie “The Help” and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. How rewarding is it to be recognized for your work?

It’s amazing, because in the music business, I’ve been respected and been given many, many accolades for what I do, which is singing and writing, and so to be recognized for that in film—my songs in films—is just another blessing. I’m just so happy and thankful for the team of people that I have.

You’re in the movie version of the 1980’s hit Broadway show “Rock of Ages”, and your character is Justice Charlier. What was it like to play that part?

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Rock of Ages was fun; it was so much fun going to work every day because everyone was just so much fun although we were working really, really hard. You would see people like Russell Brand, and he’ll make you laugh, and you see Tom Cruise, and he’ll make you feel good about not being a professional actress, and it was just fun. Everything was wonderful.

Who were your musical influences early in your career?

I have many musical influences. You could start with Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sam Cooke, Teena Marie, Chaka Khan; it just keeps going–Mavis Staples and Stevie Nicks even and Pat Benatar we grew up listening to, we were kids running home from school to watch the “Love is a Battlefield” video, so we never forgot those people who inspired us.

A few years back, you had a major transformation and turned your life around. How important was that moment in your life, both personally and professionally?

The transition that I made was a life-changing transition, because I choose life. I choose to live, I choose to be happy, I choose to love myself, and so it has affected my life, my career, who I am–everything–in a positive way.

What is the one thing you really want to do that you have your eyes on?

To be quite honest, I don’t have my eyes set on anything other than to just keep growing and learning, and whatever shows up that I’m interested in, I’m going to go after it.

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For the Friday night of the January 6 weekend, Dustin Diamond, who portrayed “Screech” on the TV series “Saved By the Bell,” has a scheduled appearance at The Pool inside Harrah’s Resort. Then, Diddy will host the launch of the Blackjack tables inside the club on Saturday night, and Rob Thomas will perform a concert at the Borgata.